How long have you been with BCLS and what drew you to the community legal sector?
Emma C: I began volunteering at BCLS in early 2016 for the Seeking Refuge Project. I’m drawn to the community legal sector as I appreciate that in the public sector the focus is always directed to our clients first and we’re working ‘for the people’.
Emma M: I’m a third year Social Work student from Deakin, and I’m on placement at BCLS from Jan 31st till June/July 2018.
What experience do you bring to the role?
Emma C: I have gained knowledge in the areas of child protection, immigration, planning and environments and media/arts law through my various volunteering experiences whilst at university.
Emma M: Not much being my first placement! But I work with young people with disabilities in residential care, who have experienced and/or witnessed severe family violence, trauma, abuse and neglect which has resulted in an impact on their brain development.
What is the best aspect of your role and what is the most challenging?
Emma C: The best aspect is getting to work with like-minded people and getting to assist a diverse range of clients. The most challenging is when there is nothing you can really do to assist a client to resolve their situation. Having to explain this to some clients is difficult as they may not be able to understand the complexity of the legal system and for some it is both distressing and frustrating when they realise just how difficult certain aspects of the system can be.
Emma M: The best thing is that I am surrounded by a wealth of knowledge from everyone in the organisation, so I know my learning experience is going to be huge. I’ve already learnt so much about both social work and the legal setting. The most challenging is probably being the small fish in the big pond!
Tell us one of the highlights of your time at BCLS so far.
Emma C: Definitely getting to work with unauthorised maritime arrival clients through the Seeking Refuge Project. They all have harrowing stories yet are some of the hardest working, kind and optimistic people I have ever met. Working with them always leaves me with a smile on my face, as they are so appreciative of even of the smallest things in life and tend to put everything into perspective.
Emma M: All the cakes!! and everyone being so friendly and welcoming!
Why did you decide to become a lawyer/social worker?
Emma C: I have always wanted to have a career that involved helping others and one that worked to bring about a positive change, both of which I believe can be achieved through working in the legal profession.
Emma M: To be able to push for social justice and equality for people, and work in a role that gives back to people in the community.
What do you wish other people knew about working in a CLC?
Emma C: It is not a straightforward lawyering role. Our work often extends far beyond dealing with our client’s legal issues. We all often also have to play the roles of educator, researcher, counsellor and sometimes even motivational speaker amongst others.
If you weren’t a lawyer/social worker what would you be?
Emma C: A florist, musical theater performer or doctor!
Emma M: Full time stay-at-home Dog-Mum. Or in the Police.
When you’re not at the office where can we find you?
Emma C: Either spending time with my family and friends, enjoying the outdoors or driving to and from Melbourne!
Emma M: Binge watching TV series and eating a block of chocolate. Or at F45 attempting to work off the chocolate consumption.
What book can you read over and over again?
Emma C: The Delirium Series by Lauren Oliver
Emma M: Can’t remember the last time I read a book (oooops) but I do watch “Friends” an unhealthy amount (literally almost every day for the past 6 or so years).
If you had $1,000,000 to donate, who would you give it to?
Emma C: I would donate the majority to causes assisting asylum seekers/immigrants, mental health research and environmental conservation as these are the areas closest to my heart.
Emma M: My mum!
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Emma C: It would either be ‘trust the process’ or ‘just because you don’t share the same opinion as someone else, doesn’t mean that yours is right and theirs is wrong. There is no right or wrong, just different.’
Emma M: Too many to think of one! Probably just the importance of looking after yourself and doing what makes you happy in life.
If you were going to write a book about BCLS what would you call it?
Emma C: Laws, Love and Laughs.
Emma M: Suits and other scary stuff